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Historic, archived document 

Do not assume content reflects current 
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^■i ' i M i j pja M flm i n w w 


E3 R A R Y 

DECl^ , 







Unitod States Department of the Interior 
Fish and Wildlife Service 

Wildlife Leaflet 229 


Illinois * Rev, October 1943 


By Herbert L. Dozier, Director, Unitod States Fur Animal Field Station, 
Pur Resources, Division of Wildlife Research 



Introduction • 1 

General directions for dress- 
ing and cooking • 2 

Recipes •• •• •o 2 

Fried muskrat •«•••• 2 

Wine-fried muskrat • • • • 3 

Broiled marsh rabbit • • • 3 

Smothered muskrat . • • • 3 
Maryland potted or baked 

muskrat ..•••••• 3 

Muskrat a la terrapin • • 3 

Michigan special • • • • • 4 

Recipes— Continue do 

Layered muskrat and com e • 4 
Marsh hare a la Louis ianns « 4 

Pickled muskrat 4 


Muskrat pie ....... 

Maryland shredded muskrat 
Muskrat with tomato sauce 
Muskrat patties • • • • < 

Muskrat salad •••••• 

Stewed muskrat liver • • . 
Preserving muskrat meat . 


Because of the scarcity of other meats, Americans will be eating more 
poultry and domestic rabbit. Some will try muskrat, or "marsh rabbit," as 
it is sometimes called. Muskrat was highly esteemed, ©specially in winter, 
by the aborigines of North America. The voyageurs, trappers, and hvmters 
roasted it over the coals of the camp fire, and traders ajid Indians dried 
the meat for winter food. 

In modern times many persons also have eaten the flesh of the muskrat 
and relished it. Some have declared that it is game worthy of em epicure 
and has a flavor somewhat like that of the wild duck shot in the same marsh 
in which the muskrat fed. Its flavor has likewise been likened to that of 
the famous terrapin of Chesapeake Bay. The muskrat is mainly a vegetarian 
euid feeds on the roots and stems of such aquatic plsuits as cattails, sedges^ 
bulrushes, wildrice, pond lilies, and water?/© ed. 

Fresh muskrat meat is available during the open trapping seasons in 
various States. This period extends from November to April, depending 
on State laws. Muskrats are sold extensively in some of the markets of 
the East. In Washington, Baltimore, St. Louis, Wilmington, and Phila- 
delphia, they are sold as "marsh rabbits," but no attempt is made to 
conceal the fact that they are muskrats^ They can be purchased cheaply 
as they are trapped for their fur and the additional labor of preparing 
the meat for market is slight. 

Muskrat is eaten by all classes of people. It is a favorite dish 
at dinners given by church societies in Delaware, Maryland, and New Jer- 
sey, and an annual muskrat banquet is a fixture with certain gun clubs 
in both the Bast and the West. 


The flesh of the muskrat, dark red in color, is fine-grained and 
tender. Prejudice against the meat results usually from lack of skill 
in cooking or from carelessness in skinning the animal. The musk glands 
often cone off with the skin, and only in summer does the musky odor per- 
vade the flesh. Care should be taken to avoid cutting into the musk 
glands, and any subcutaneous glands that may adhere to the meat should 
be trimmed off. 

The dressed muskrat should be soaked overnight in slightly salted 
cold water to draw out the blood and reduce the gamy flavor. Tfeak vinegar 
also reduces the "wild" taste and tends to make the meat more tender. A 
pinch of baking soda may be used for the same purpose. 

Young muskrats, like young rabbits, can be cooked by the quick methods 
of frying or broiling. Older emimals require longer, slower cooking. The 
latter are excellent served in fricassees, casserole dishes, muskrat pies, 
croquettes, chop suey, and other ways adapted to mature meat. 


The recipes given here are typical of the many suitable for cooking 
this meat. When properly prepared, it is highly palatable. 

Fried Muskrat 

Disjoint the muskrat and cut it into desired number of pieces. Par- 
boil for 20 minutes, drain, and wipe with damp cloth. Fry plain in a 
heavy skillet. If preferred, the pieces may be dipped until well-coated 
in a smooth batter made by beating one egg yolk in half a cup of milk, 
adding three-fourths of a teaspoonful of salt, and stirring in half a cup 
of flour, and dropped into hot fat. As soon as the meat is browned, re- 
duce the heat and cook slowly until tender. Serve on a hot platter and 
garnish with parsley. A rich, brown gravy may be made by stirring flour 
into the pan drippings, adding a little water or milk, and cooking until 

Wine -fried Muskrat 

Soak muskrat ©"vieraight in slightly salted -water. Drain and boil in 
fresh water until tender. Separate the meat from the bones and fry in 
shortening. As this is frying, pour over it a little sweet wine, sherry 
wine being generally used. Some prefer to serve the meat on a hot platter 
and then pour the wine over it» 

Broiled Marsh Rabbit 

Clean and wash the muskrat emd wipe it with a damp cloth. Butter 
thoroughly and brush with a thin mixture of vinegar and mustard. Dust 
well with prepared poultry seasoning, place in broiler, and broil for 
20 minutes* 

Smothered Muskrat 

After soaking the muskrat overnight, drain and parboil for 20 minutes. 
Heat some sausage or bacon drippings in a thick skillet and sear meat in it« 
Season with salt, pepper, and chopped onion. Sprinkle with flour and add a 
little water. Then cover and allow it to simmer until thoroughly done. 

Maryland Potted or Baked Muskrat 

Soak 2 muskrats overnight, drain, and cut into pieces. Pour boiling 
water over meat, stir thoroughly, and drain. Place in a thick skillet or 
iron pot, add a little water, a pod of red pepper or half a teaspoonful of 
red cayenne. Season with salt and pepper to taste, a little sage and 4 
tablespoonfuls of bacon or sausage drippings. If desired, a generous 
piece of washed salt pork may be used instead. Sprinkle flour over top, 
cover, and bake in a moderately hot oven until tender, basting several 
times until well browned. 

Enough potatoes for the meal may be cooked with the meat, or the musk- 
rat can be served with diced, buttered white or sweet potatoes, peas, or 
carrots • 

Muskrat a la Terrapin 

Boil the meat in slightly salted water for about an hour or until 
tender but firm. Drain off the cooking water. Remove the meat from the 
bones and cut it into small pieces. Cover the bones with cold water and 
let simmer. Then add this juice to the meat. For each muskrat, hard- 
boil 3 or 4 eggs. Mash the yolks with 2 tablespoonfuls of butter, stir 
until smooth, suid add a level tablespoonful of mustard, a tablespoonful 
of flour, and abput half a cup of cream. Put iil the chopped egg whites, 
fimd pepper and salt to taste. Then mix all of this with the muskrat meat 
and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until thick. Before serving, add a glass- 
ful of sherry wine. 

Miohlgaji Speoial 

After soaking the muskrat overnight, disjoint it and cut it into 
pieces t Put it into fresh water and parboil for 5 minutes. Drain and 
rinse with warm water. Place in a roaster and cover with canned com 
and a little water or milk, using 2 cans of corn to 3 nuskrats* Add 
salt euad pepper, 3 me divan- si zed onions, and 2 tablespoonfuls of butter. 
Place in a hot oven and stir the pieces as they brown. Bake about 2^ 
hours, or until the meat is well done. 

Layered Muskrat and Com 

Soak muskrat overnight in slightly salted water. Drain and parboil 
for 20 minutes in fresh water seasoned with a little celery, onions, salt, 
and pepper. Separate the meat from the bones and place it in a casserole. 
Layer it with canned crushed com (a layer of corn and then a layer of 
meat), topping off with the com. Add a little milk, place in oven, and 
bake until well done and properly browned on top* 

Marsh Hare a la Louis ianne 

Disjoint legs of muskrats and soak them in vinegar for 30 minutes or 
more. Remove from vinegar. Salt and pepper well, place in hot cooking 
oil, and brown. Then remove to another pot with about 2 quarts of hot 
water. Chop fine a piece of celery, parsnip, and a small head of garlic. 
Brown the chopped seasoning in the cooking oil in which meat was browned, 
add 2 cans of tomato or pin»nto sauce, and cook over a slow fire for 5 
minutes. Pour this sauce into pot with the muskrat legs and cook over low 
heat vmtil done, adding salt and pepper to taste, a teaspoonful of sugar, 
and a few bay leaves. 

Pickled Muskrat 

Place muskrat in a crock or glass jar containing a solution of a cup 
of water, a cup of cider vinegar, a tablespoonful of salt, mixed, spices, 
and bay leaves. Let stand in a cold place for at least 24, and preferably 
48, hours. Then simmer in the same mixture until tender. Remove meat, 
strain off the spices and bay leaves, and thicken the liquid with flour and 
water to the desired consistency. 

This dish is best seirved with potato dumplings. To make the dumplings, 
fry a medium-sized onion in 2 tablespoons of fat, then pour this over 4 
cups of diced bread, and mix by hand. Add a cup of mashed potatoes and mix 
thoroughly, then 2 raw eggs, half a cup of flour, and salt to taste. 
Fashion lightly into large balls, drop into boiling water in an uncovered 
pot or kettle, and cook for 20 minutes. Serve with brown gravy. 

Muskrat Pie 

Soak muskrat overnight in slightly salted water. Drain, wipe the 
meat with a damp cloth, and cut into two or three pieces. Place in a 

kettle, barely cover it with water, add a little salt, and let simmer 
1 to 2 hours until the meat is tender » Pour off and measure the broth. 
Remove the meat from the bones in large pieces. Chop up an onion, a 
green pepper, and half a cup of parsley, smd put in a skillet with several 
table spoonfuls of butter or other fat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring 
frequently. For each cup of broth, take 1^ tablespoonfuls of flour and 
mix well with the fat and seasonings. Pour in the broth and stir until 
thickened. Salt to taste and add a dash of tabasco sauce. Mix in the 
meat well and place in individued baJcing dishes. Cover with pastry and 
bake in a moderate oven until the crust is a golden brown. 

Maryland Shredded Muskrat 

Soak 2 muskrats in slightly salted water for 2 days, changing the 
water twice a day. Cut up and boil in water sufficient only to cover, 
^en tender, remove meat from the bones, and shred into small, narrow 
pieces about 2 inches or less in length. Place in frying pan or other 
container with Just enough of the liquor in which the meat was boiled to 
cover, add 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings, 1 tablespoon of sage, a 
little cayenne pepper, and salt and black pepper to taste* Place in oven, 
turn frequently until well browned but still moist, and serve hot. 

Muskrat with Tomato Sauce 

Disjoint and cut into pieces 2 muskrats. Place in a deep pan, cover 
well with water, add ^ teaspoonful of black pepper, a pinch of salt, and 
1 sliced onion, and cook about an hour, or until thoroughly tender. Melt 
half a cup of fat in a thick skillet. Place meat in the hot skillet, 
brown on one side, turn, and immediately pour over it about two-thirds of 
a small-sized bottle of catchup and a teagpoonful of Worcestershire sauce* 
If desired, the pieces of onion saved from the first water and a small 
piece of celery may be added* Almost cover with water and let simmer un- 
til the gravy is thick enough to serve. 

Muskrat Patties 

Soak muskrat overnight in slightly salted water* Drain and parboil 
in fresh water until tender. Remove the meat from the bones, run through 
meat grinder if desired, season with salt, pepper, euad onion, mix in a 
small quantity of bread crumbs, and fashion into patties* Dip these into 
well-beaten egg, then in crumbs, and fry in deep fat until brown. 

Muskrat Salad 

After soaJcing muskrat overnight in salted water, drain and boil in 
fresh water, seasoned with salt, and pepper for flavoring, until meat is 
tender but finn. Separate meat from the bones, cut it into small pieces, 
and prepare like chicken or other meat salad* With mayonnaise only added, 
it may be used as a sandwich spread. 

Stevred Muskrat Llvor 

Care must bo taken to remove all gall bladders. Soak the livers over- 
night in fresh water. Simmer for 10 minutes, draw off the water, and then 
simmer again in water in which a small piece of salt pork has been added. 
Salt and pepper to taste, add sliced onion, and stew down, thickening the 
liquid with a little flour, 

Muskrat liver is somewhat grainy. Hovrever, it tastes like that of 
chicken and is much relishgd. 

Preserving Muskrat Ifeat 

During the trapping season th9 wives of trappers and fanners living on 
or near marsh areas where muskrats are produced preserve the meat for later 
use. This is done by ordinary home -pre serving methods. A favorite way is 
to parboil the meat, fry it lightly, and then pack it tightly in glass or 
earthen jars. Melted fat should then be poured over it until it covers the 
meat about one-quarter of an inch, in the same manner as country sausage is 
commonly preserved. 

The quick-freezing method and the locker service furnished by ice and 
refrigerating companies have made it possible to develop still further the 
preservation of muskrat meat. The usual procedure is to bleuach or lightly 
parboil the meat, wrap it in special waxed paper, and then quick-freeze it#